[Diplomat] As the Year Ends, South Koreans Have Plenty to Talk About

December 30, 2014


South Korean President Park Geun-hye (Yonhap)

South Korean President Park Geun-hye (Yonhap)


One thing South Koreans can’t complain about this winter is a lack of conversation topics. Four high-profile scandals have been the talk of end-of-year parties for students and office workers.

When Korean politicians decide to run for office, they know they will face allegations, often fueled by opposition attacks. Revealing news discrediting the ruling party or president is a tactic often used by the opposition in Korea as elsewhere. After a period of relative calm for the two years following her election, President Park Geun-hye, whom some suggest is already a lame duck, is now facing two scandals simultaneously.

In October, a National Assembly audit revealed that Park had appointed star fitness trainer Yoon Jeon-choo to a director level position at the Blue House, Korea’s presidential office. For many countries, that may not seem like a big deal, but it certainly is in South Korea. Public servants in the country have to go through gruesome examinations with an 87:1 competition rate to enjoy rather modest promotions, and need to work hard for years before they can reach director-level positions. As such, appointing a fitness trainer to a director position has caused some to question Yoon’s credentials, leading to allegations of nepotism, which were denied by the Blue House.